My name is Liz Glenn and I am Library Manager at Belfast Metropolitan College. I manage the library service at Belfast Met across four campuses and with an approximate enrolment of over 35,000 students. The mission statement for the College is “Putting the learner at the centre of everything we do”, and my role is to ensure we support our learners to achieve and become confident library users.
Librarianship is the family business; my mother was a library assistant at Holywood library (NI). My mother loved her job – she loved encouraging and developing readers; from the little old lady who moved on to novels from Mills and Boons to the child she introduced to C S Lewis. I would visit her in work after school in the old gas station that was the library in Holywood at that time. She saw libraries as a vital part of the community and her enthusiasm rubbed off on me.
I studied Librarianship and English at Queen’s University, taking a module in what used to be called Adult Literacy. After university I worked in public libraries and eventually got a job with the Schools and FE library service at the South Eastern Education and Library Board. I developed my interest in how libraries can support education by working in a large school in London and eventually returning to work in FE Colleges in Belfast.
Further Education is incredibly varied. We support learners from school age to retirement age and qualifications from Essential Skills to post-graduate therefore our support has to be as flexible as their learning.
Last year we implemented a new library management system, Koha , and we have been working through ’teething’ problems and are now developing it to support learners inside and outside the college. I am lucky to work with a very talented and innovative team and it is exciting to see new ideas and plans coming together to create an outstanding service.
The physical services, including books, IT and printing access, we provide also need to reflect the changing needs of our learners in Belfast. Currently we are closing one campus library and putting plans together to develop another. One day I may be packing books and another discussing plans for refurbishment.
I think the key skills needed for today’s information and library professional are adaptability and a willingness to learn new skills. Good IT skills are increasingly important. Strong communication skills are vital in all library work but particularly so in Further Education. We deliver induction and user education sessions to the majority of our learners and every induction is tailored to the needs of the class.
What advice would I give to anyone considering a career in information management? Be flexible and willing to learn new skills – libraries are going through a period of rapid change and the libraries of the future will deliver support in many different ways. It is still about supporting the library user and developing them into confident information users and that will not change.